DOJ, defense team give opening statements in hate crimes trial for Ahmaud Arbery killing

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery by the State of Georgia, are all facing hate crime charges in federal court.

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After a jury was seated in the case this morning, this afternoon the Department of Justice and defense lawyers representing each of the 3 men respectively provided jurors with a roadmap of what their evidence will show.

The DOJ said their evidence will show that the actions of Travis, Gregory and William were racially motivated. Bobbi Bernstein, one of the members of the federal prosecution team, described February 23, 2020, as the day Ahmaud Arbery went out for a jog but ended up running for his life.

As DOJ lawyer Bernstein walked the jury though the day of the murder, it became too much to bare for Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud’s father, and one of Ahmaud’s family members. They both had to leave the courtroom before returning later.

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Bernstein told the jury the three men would not have chased Ahmaud down and threatened him if he was white.

Specifically, the federal legal team plans to prove this by showing how each of three defendants talked about race behind closed doors.

Bernstein said they will introduce evidence that shows Travis referring to Black people using the ‘n’ word, referring to Black people as ‘subhuman savages’, criminals and monkeys. She also told the jury how Travis made a statement about how he “loved his job” because there were “zero n-words.”

Evidence from the prosecution is also set to include a conversation Gregory McMichael had with a former co-worker about the death of a civil rights leader.

“I think we’ll get another victory out of this,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery.

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The DOJ also plans to use evidence to prove that Ahmaud Arbery had a history of running through the Satilla Shores neighborhood, but was never seen taking anything.

However, Bernstein shared that there had also been a white couple that had visited the same home Ahmaud did. They had a bag with them during their visit to the home that was under construction.

She said there was also another suspicious white man that had been in the area, but the three defendants weren’t concerned about them. Instead, Bernstein said Travis, Gregory and William determined, with no evidence that, Ahmaud had to be up to no good.

“A whole lot of hard evidence is going to come into play, so I have to be prepared for that each and every day. But I’m grateful that we’re here and we made it this far,” Cooper-Jones said.

“When you see this color, just hate it. First chance you get, you kill. Man, that’s a sickness,” said Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud’s father.

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The lawyers representing Travis, Gregory and William said their evidence will show the actions the three men took were not because Ahmaud was Black, but because they believed he was the man who illegally entered the home under construction.

The home is owned by a man named Larry English.

Gregory’s lawyer also told the jury the Satilla Shores community was “on edge” during the time of the murder, because of previous break-ins in the neighborhood.

As the lawyer representing Gregory McMichael continued with his opening statement, he also mentioned that Gregory recognized Ahmaud Arbery’s face from surveillance videos shown to neighbors by English.

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The lawyer that represents Travis McMichael said he and his father were just “trying to be good neighbors.”

Counsel for William “Roddie” Bryan said their evidence will also prove he never wanted to harm Ahmaud, just record him.

Dale Carson, our Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert, said the government’s case has the potential to be a strong one.

“If they could marshal together information that shows the individuals who are engaged in this murder, were actually individuals who did not like African-Americans and will take advantage of the situation in order to accomplish the arrest and subsequent killing of Arbery,” said Carson.

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Carson has years of experience in criminal defense and runs a local criminal defense law firm.

“This is an opportunity for the government to speak out very clearly and say in the United States, racial bigotry, racial animus will not be tolerated in any of its forms,” Carson told Action News Jax Courtney Cole.

The Department of Justice is set to present their case first on Tuesday.

The first witness will be called to the stand at 9:00 a.m.

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